Monday, 30 July 2012

As calls-to-action go - Inapub May 2012

As calls-to-action go, ‘Free Hog Roast’ has plenty to recommend it as a means of getting customers into a pub. It’s simple to understand, has a strong appeal, and, like cask beer or a properly-made Martini, represents something punters can’t duplicate easily at home.

The downside, as the more astute licensed trade professionals out there will have spotted almost immediately, is that putting on a hog roast is a relatively expensive proposition. Giving away slices of the end product is hardly the mark of a well-run, businesslike establishment.

So it was with some interest that I responded to an invitation from the Derby Arms, a well-located pub on the Downs outside Epsom, to partake of complimentary canapés, a wine tasting and – you guessed it – a hog roast. I should add that this wasn’t an industry junket, but an appeal to customers on the M&B pub’s database as a means of launching its summer menu.

Mrs P and myself were asked to put our names on a guest list, without which, we were warned sternly, there could be no possibility of admittance. As it turned out, when we rocked up at the door, we were handed a glass of fizz without even a rudimentary ID check.

I’m guessing that the unseasonably warm summer evening at the end of March caught the pub unawares, because the vast army that descended on Epsom Downs during the two hour window specified undoubtedly stretched them. Every plate of canapés that emerged from the kitchen was stripped clean in seconds, and it was a struggle to appreciate the subtle flavours of wines served in glasses that were still dishwasher-hot. 

The two young kitchen hands in charge of the hog roast deserve high praise for continuing to produce portions of pork long after the carcase appeared, to the casual observer, to have been reduced to mere bones and grease. All told, the atmosphere was cheerful and the staff helpful. I suspect the pub has generated considerable goodwill by coping admirably with a much higher-than forecast turnout.

With industry analyst Horizons recently warning that pubs need to compete head-to-head with high street restaurant chains, the need to have robust procedures for dealing with peaks in demand is becoming more important. Both M&B’s Sizzling Pub brand and Spirit Group’s Chef & Brewer picked up accolades at the recent Menu Innovation and Development Awards against strong restaurant competition – consumers want to eat at pubs, but they now expect the same service standards they get in restaurants.


When did pollen become a legitimate food for anything bigger than a bee? A recent gastropub menu I encountered offered several dishes served with fennel pollen crumb, and another featured pine pollen, advising diners that it’s a highly nutritious superfood. Which probably explains the buzz. Pass the anti-histamine.

This 'Pub Food With Porter' column originally appeared in Inapub, May 2012

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